PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 23: Stephen Curry attends the 2023 Sundance Film Festival “Stephen Curry: Underrated” Premiere at Eccles Center Theatre on January 23, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
By Bailey Pennick
Stephen Curry: Underrated isn’t the film that you think it’s going to be. Sure, there’s loads of archival footage of the basketball superstar, and sit-down interviews with teammates and coaches, but this isn’t a birth-to-championship player pipeline tale, or even about Curry’s time in the NBA, really. Instead, Peter Nicks’ latest film (Homeroom, The Force) primarily focuses on the 2008 NCAA tournament run that Curry competed in as part of Davidson College’s team. And that might seem strange, especially considering Curry’s illustrious career as a Golden State Warrior, but once you start getting to know the man behind the basketball, wanting to tell this story makes all the sense in the world.
Behind those piercing eyes and somehow-always-out-of-his-mouth mouthguard, Curry is a man who doesn’t take anything for granted. His relationships with the people in his life — on and off the court — energize him and inspire him to dream bigger and work harder. “It’s surreal,” says Curry, when asked about seeing his story told on the big screen, during the film’s post-premiere discussion at Eccles Theatre. “We all start from somewhere and we learn things along the way. And we do things with amazing people who bring out the best of us and support us when things get rough and tough.” And it’s clear that this 2008 Davidson team and coaching staff made a large imprint on all aspects of Curry’s life — from career to self-confidence.
While we all know that Curry is an NBA championship magnet, Underrated threads the confidence that his university coach and teammates gave him with his renewed efforts to get his Davidson degree. (Yes, his mother has been asking him to go back to school since he left to play basketball professionally.) It’s within these new scenes that we see the caring and thoughtful man that Curry has become, whether the Warrior is talking with academic advisors or trying to write his dissertation at home while his adorable children interrupt at any chance they get.
This unstoppable hustle is what drew Ryan Coogler to this project as a producer. Well, that and the fact that Curry’s been bringing home championships to his beloved Oakland. “I’m from Oakland, bro! Born and raised… and I’ll do whatever [Steph] wants to do!” Coogler says with a laugh as the crowd gets loud with cheers. As the charged audience settles back down a bit, Coogler more seriously describes how he’s still so in awe of what a hard worker Curry is: “Through the process of making [this film], I recognized so many things about chasing the dream. You don’t see the struggles, you just see the success, and for me the film speaks to what it’s like to chase a dream — how people who are successful keep chasing them and they never do it alone.” He pauses and collects himself, “I’m a mess after watching it each time!”
And there’s no doubt that Curry is successful, but Underrated highlights how grounded he is even after shooting a record number of 3-pointers and starring in a truly insane amount of Subway commercials on no sleep. He never forgets all the people that have been a part of his life and continue to be in his heart on this journey.
But just because he’s got a slick documentary premiering at the Sundance Film Festival doesn’t mean he’s taking his foot off the gas. “It’s amazing that this story inspires people to push through the doubts, push through the criticism, and the times that people count you out,” Curry says. “Seeing it up there on screen… it gave me a little more juice to keep going on!”
Curry for the win!